The Delhi High Court has quashed the judgement of a trial court, which sentenced a man to life imprisonment for murdering his wife, as the man was not represented by a lawyer for a substantial period of the trial. The High Court called it a “grave miscarriage of justice”.
Referring to Supreme Court judgments which hold that the right to free legal services is an essential ingredient of “reasonable, fair and just” procedure for a person accused of an offence, a Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal quashed the accused’s conviction and sentence.
The court remanded the case back to the trial court where it will be heard again on September 26.
The man had challenged the trial court’s March 2018 judgment, convicting him for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentencing him to life imprisonment. He was accused by the prosecution of strangulating his wife to death.
In his appeal before the High Court, the man stated that during a substantial course of the trial, he was not represented by a lawyer, which “seriously prejudiced” his case.
The High Court in its judgement noted that “there was a serious denial of a fair trial to the appellant (accused),” given the manner in which the trial was conducted.
It found that at the start of the trial, the man was represented by a counsel appointed by him. But the counsel was not present during the examination of the witnesses.
The High Court also noted that at a later stage of the trial, a counsel was appointed by legal aid for him. But on the date of his appointment, three more witnesses were examined and discharged.
“Obviously, since counsel for the legal aid had been appointed on that day itself, there was no cross-examination of the said witnesses done by the legal aid counsel,” the High Court observed.
The Bench said, “there has been a grave miscarriage of justice to the appellant when a number of witnesses were examined when the appellant was not represented by a counsel and then when the legal aid counsel who was present in the Court was appointed on the same day was asked to cross-examine the witnesses”.